Paige spilled milk onto her kitchen floor on purpose. She thinks, “I am doing this. The milk. My hands and my brain are allowing me to do this. This must be okay, if I can physically do this. My body was made for this,” as the milk goes from inside of the carton to onto the floor. Paige thought of everything that her body was physically able to do. Paige could murder. Paige could scream at an uncomfortably loud volume to others around her and even herself. Paige could masturbate until her body became whatever bodies become when they get too tired and sad and they give up completely. At any point in her life, Paige thought, she could say fuck it and completely give herself over to the physicality of her body. She could become all movement and motion and impulse. On this day, when this day happens, Paige thought, she would improve her posture. She would let her shoulders roll back and her neck extend. She would allow her body to appear confident and tall. Paige wanted to perform the physical limitations of her body like a community theatre play, aware of her own, thinly concealed, artifice. Paige lifted her shoulders up to her ears and then slammed them down. She did this exactly five times. She wanted to make sure that her shoulders were locked into place. Paige lifted her right arm incrementally until it was outstretched in front of her face. She spread each of her fingers apart until her palm felt vulnerable. She stood in the middle of the kitchen with her arm outstretched as she watched the white milk blend into the white tiled floor. Paige watched the milk seemingly disappear against the floor. The milk found a pathway through the tile grout and zigzagged its way underneath the refrigerator. Paige’s feet stayed dry and everything remained normal. “Inconsequential,” thought Paige, “like most things.” Paige let her body collapse in on itself as she slumped down into a hard wooden chair.
Paige sat down at the kitchen table and stared at her iPhone. She touched the screen and tried to will messages to appear. She was waiting for something, anything, to happen. Lately Paige felt as though she simply allowed things to happen to her, rather than proactively trying to set in motion a series of events. She had taken to letting events and other people set her in motion, in any motion, in any direction. Not only was she willing to go wherever something happened to take her, she simply no longer cared. Paige told this to her therapist. Her therapist replied by shrugging her shoulders noncommittally and said, “This too shall pass.”
Paige was waiting for a text, or any acknowledgement of her existence, from Robert. Paige and Robert had been dating for five months. The last time Paige saw Robert was exactly a week ago.
Robert and Paige sat together in the front seat of Paige’s car that was parked in the driveway to their apartment. Paige sat in the driver’s seat with her back against the car door and her legs draped across Robert’s lap. In the passenger’s seat, Robert held a small plastic bag with JWH, a synthetic cannabinoid, inside of it. He rested the plastic bag on Paige’s legs as he reached forward to grab the pack of Lucky Strikes that sat patiently on the dashboard as its red and white cardboard exterior wilted in the constant July heat. Robert took two cigarettes out of the box, licked the ends of them with his tongue, and dipped them into the bag of powder. This method of smoking JWH is known as â€˜tipping’. Paige’s first experience with tipping was not pleasant. The first time Paige smoked JWH she was standing on the balcony of the hotel that Robert lived in at the time. Robert and Paige shared a cigarette that was laced with JWH while they drank forties in their underwear. Paige kept hallucinating a light consistently flashing on the brick wall of the hotel building and she felt paranoid that the flashing light was a man on a bicycle that kept riding by, three stories above ground, just to watch Paige in her underwear. But now she feels calm whenever she smokes JWH. Time feels slower for her. She could live inside the pocket of every second just a little bit longer. It gave her time to breathe.
Robert handed Paige one of the cigarettes and they smoked while listening to the radio. This had become a daily ritual. Lately, however, it had seemed like there was always something preventing them from just sitting closely together in comfortable silence. Robert had been acting increasingly distant and seemed to have other things that he would rather do. Paige and Robert scanned the radio stations for contest announcements or free giveaways. Today, in the next town over, a car dealership was having a â€˜test drive’ promotion. If you were one of the first 100 people, the radio announced, to get to the dealership and text drive a car you could win a $35 gift card. Robert idly played with the skin on Paige’s knees. “Should we do that? Do you think it’s too late to be in the top 100?” he asked while grinning. Paige laughed. “I don’t know. I can’t tell the time. It feels like they announced that hours ago. We should just sit here. Your hands are on my legs and I just want them to stay there.” Robert’s hands felt heavy on Paige’s legs and she felt as if she had molded to the seat of the car. In that moment she didn’t mind the idea of being a permanent part of her car. She wanted to sit like that for a long time.
“We could do a lot with $35 though,” said Robert. “We could basically be millionaires at the dollar store.” “We could be thirty-five-dollaranaires,” Paige said. Paige looked down at her legs. They felt lighter. Robert’s hands were now adjusting the dials on the radio. Robert became silent and shifted his body away from Paige.
Alone in her kitchen, Paige’s iPhone began to vibrate. Paige looked down at her iPhone. It was not Robert that was causing this disturbance. Paige had received a text from her ex-boyfriend, Todd, wishing her a happy birthday. Paige had a conversation with her Todd via text message. She learned that his most recent girlfriend had broken up with him for seemingly “no reason.”
“I feel like my life is on a shitty loop,” Todd said via text message. “Every time I feel as if I have transcended the loop and start to think â€˜this time it’s going to be different, life takes a dump on the still idealistic parts of me. Maybe I am depressed. Well, I am definitely depressed. But I am in mourning.”
“I feel like life is mainly a shitty loop,” Paige responded. “I feel unsure of this though. I am on three different mood stabilizers so I don’t think I experience a full range of emotions anymore. I feel abstractly dissatisfied with my life but mostly detached.”
Paige wondered if this was what it was supposed to feel like, if this was just life, if this was statistical normalcy. She wondered if blankness was merely contentedness. Maybe, without knowing, Paige had accidentally settled into happiness. She wasn’t sure of this. Even without feeling sad, Paige knew that she was sad. Paige was convinced that she was lacking something that everyone else had, something that she did not even have the innate capacity to fathom. Paige wanted to run down to the street and ask everyone she encountered what this thing was or what it could possibly be. What is inside of you besides this human stuff of veins and bones and existential longing?
“Why does everything eventually become terrible?”
Paige thought about this. It was seemingly a non sequitur but she assumed that Todd was referring to his recent breakup. Why do relationships become terrible? Before Paige could respond, Todd texted, “People give up too easily.” Do relationships start to disintegrate when the people in them simply stop trying to hold them together or if the relationship needs to be so carefully held and attended to, is it fated to fail from the start? Paige tried to formulate a conception of love and relationships. She wasn’t sure if â€˜not giving up’ was the main strategy for keeping a relationship’s vital signs healthy. Paige thought that, almost by design, it is hard not to feel alienated from another person no matter what and that, she thought, is what makes relationships so difficult. A human brain is encased in a skull and each human exists in separate body so it seems like there is always going to be that feeling of disconnect; one human will never completely understand what another human is thinking or feeling. Paige felt increasingly lonely as she thought about how she would never be able to make anyone understand what she was thinking or feeling. With this being the unfortunate state of humans, in a relationship when one expects to feel that closeness, that complete understanding, but they don’t or they simply can’t it just feels as if things aren’t ‘working.’ But maybe, Paige thought, that is how it is always going to feel. Maybe that is the only way it can feel.
Paige knew that Todd was a Romantic. He believed in an all-encompassing love. He believed that love was a force, similar to a God, which was bigger than humans, bigger than loneliness, bigger than alienation. She knew that in every relationship, including theirs, Todd believed that not only had his partner failed him, but they had failed love.
Paige believed that love was not just an unquantifiable thing. Paige thought of love as two-fold. She thought that love was made up of an immeasurable amount of concrete things about one’s partner and about oneself and about the interaction between the two. She thought of love as the overarching combination of all of those things that make you feel emotionally endeared to the other person. Then, she thought, under the overarching endearment is the day-to-day minutia; the concrete and tangible. It is possible that although one may feel this overarching love for their partner they may not necessarily feel, on a concrete level, that they are compatible. They may feel completely emotionally attached to their partner but not fully content simply discussing the boring minutia of their lives. Paige thought that in this way it seemed understandable for someone to ‘give up’ on love when at the point in the relationship the overarching feeling of love becomes vague and distant and then all that is left is just minutia and coexistence that, unfortunately, are not aligned.
Paige’s iPhone vibrated and then lit up in her hands. The screen displayed a text message from Robert that said, “I haven’t been feeling well lately.” “I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on with you,” Paige responded, “and you don’t talk to me about how you feel or anything that’s going on with you. When I’m not feeling well I want to talk to you about it because you make me feel better. But apparently when you’re not feeling well you want nothing to do with me. What am I doing that makes you feel that way?” Robert said that he just felt shitty and wasn’t really interacting with anyone lately. When you’re stressed, Paige thought, you want to go to comforting things. You want to be around and talk to only the people that make you feel good and comfortable. By this logic, Paige could only assume that this distance was because she was no longer a person that made Robert feel good and comfortable.
Paige attempted to question Robert as to why he was being despondent and evasive. She approached the situation from sadness – from complete bewilderment and ignorance as to why he would act this way. Paige had a sadness that was so desperate that it could not yet turn into anger. This sadness did not yet know how to be angry. Paige knew that anger chanced the possibility that she would only receive anger in return. She knew that her anger could turn her into “the crazy girlfriend.” Paige did not have the privilege of anger, no matter how deserved. Anger could cause her legitimate, rational, and rightful questions to be ignored. Paige’s chest started to tighten and she could feel the anxiety physically overwhelming her body. Slowly, as if her own mind wanted to torture her with what was about to happen. Paige closed her eyes and thought about the white milk against the white floor. Inconsequential, she tried to remind herself. She knew that this was happening, this crushing feeling inside her ribcage and between her lungs, but she also knew that it would stop happening, eventually, and that other things would happen after.